Tossing away plastic bottles and trapping water

09 August 2016

A couple of months ago I was visiting a local Harley-Davidson store in town called Ray C's, which now has a BBQ trailer from another business in the county, called the Country Smokehouse, with which they've partnered with for the summer.

I'm not into motorcycles or anything to do with them really, but I wanted to eat at the BBQ trailer since I love their store and visit it whenever I'm on that side of the county.

If I remember properly, I ordered some pulled pork taco's and a bottle of water. It was quite the hot summer day and water was the most appropriate drink of choice for the weather conditions, and more importantly, the best choice for a diabetic like me; soda pop is not an option.

The motorcycle dealership is newly built in a better location and is very beautiful with a lot of showroom space and a shop for working on bikes. They've also included an outdoor waiting area which is covered and protected from the sun with picnic tables to sit on. This is where I sat down to eat my taco's and drink my water.

The food was absolutely delicious and I really wanted to place a second order, but I restrained my gluttony and and only had the one serving. I also finished my water and I got up from the table to put my trash into the trash bin. When I approached the receptacle I was screwing the cap back onto the bottle and one of the Ray C's employees standing nearby, maybe even on guard, politely shouted at me not to throw that bottle away. I stopped, stunned for a second, as if I may have been about to do something criminal and wondering why I shouldn't do what I was about to do.

In Michigan, we have a 10 cent bottle return recycling program but it only applies to soda pop and beer bottles, and not to water bottles. That's quite unfortunate really that the laws haven't been updated to include more forms of recyclable materials that are commonly sold.

I care about the environment, but I'm not overly zealous about it either. You won't find me chained to a tree in an old forest or laying down in front of a bulldozer protesting a new development. But I do try to do what I can in certain areas to help preserve the environment and reduce my carbon footprint. It's all relative of course and other people do a whole lot more than I do, but for me, I'm making progress one step at a time.

So I hate to admit this, but I do toss out plastic water bottles in the trash and don't recycle them. I don't drink soda pop or drink beer so there is nothing to recycle there. But when I find one on the ground or elsewhere, I will take it to a recycle bin.

While I was standing there, stunned as it were, the Ray C's employee began to educate me me about the water that is locked up in the landfills across the planet that can never get out. By placing the cap back on the bottle I was trapping a very insignificant amount of water inside the bottle. Not much to really make a difference to anything, much less the environment. But when he began to talk about it, I realized that one bottle alone won't make a difference, but when I consider how many bottles I've tossed out with a little bit of water in them and the cap securely locked on it, and all the bottles other people have tossed out in similar fashion, that insignificant amount of water per bottle can turn up to be quite a significant amount in totality.

It can take between 450 to 1,000 years for a plastic bottle to decompose and thus let out the water trapped inside of it.

Each day in the United States more than 60 million water bottles are thrown away. That's 21, 900, 000, 000 bottles of water thrown out each year in the U.S. That 22 billion water bottles per year is just one country on our planet. The total amount of water bottles thrown out worldwide must be staggering if we don't consider 22 billion to be staggering enough.

According to Our Blue Planet:

One twelve ounce bottle of water has 7,200 drops of water in it. If water bottles were thrown out with just one drop of water in it, humans would have prevented 7.4 million gallons of water from returning back into the atmosphere in 2008 alone. To get an image of how much water that is, an Olympic swimming pool contains 660,000 gallons of water. We have wasted 11 Olympic swimming pools worth of water by drinking bottled water. The average hot tub is full at 400 gallons. With the amount of water wasted, you could fill 18,444 hot tubs. These statistics do not take into account the amount of water bottles that are thrown out half full or mostly full such as after a party or if your bottle of water becomes warm. When you include the percentage of bottles in landfills with a substantial amount of water in them, the numbers increase dramatically. The United States alone has wasted at least 8,679,705 Gallons worth of drips from bottled water between 2000 and 2008. We are partially to blame for droughts around the world, by preventing this water from reaching the water cycle and having our reservoirs being replenished.

That is an awful lot of water being trapped in bottles in landfills that may not see the environment again for at least 450 years. If the US. wastes about 8.6 million gallons of water each year like this, on average, in 450 years time that will be 3.8 billion gallons of water gone before they theoretically could start getting back into the environment when the first bottles finally decompose enough to release the trapped water.

Once I started thinking about it, the Ray C's employee was right about the the issue of trapped water in bottles and ever since that day I've started not putting the caps on the bottles when I dispose of them. It's not much for one person, but he made an impact on me and I hope if you're reading this post, it will make an impact on you as well to help do your part for our planet, the only one we have.

Download the pdf version with pictures here.